Syllabus United States v. Nixon, President of the United States, et al. Certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals
U.S. Supreme Court
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Washington, DC: Supreme Court of the U.S, 1974. iii, , 31,  pages. Wraps. Footnotes. Minor swear and soiling. Pencil erasure residue on front page. Some corner creasing. Described as a Slip Opinion. Complete title: Syllabus United States v. Nixon, President of the United States, et al. Certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit Before Judgment No. 73-1766. The syllabus constitutes no part of the opinion of the Court but has been prepared by the reporter of Decisions for the convenience of the Reader. The opinion follows the three page syllabus. This case was argued July 8, 1974, and decided July 24, 1974. This is the Supreme Court decision that required the release of certain tapes and documents to the Special Prosecutor. The President had claimed Executive Privilege. United States v. Nixon, 418 U.S. 683 (1974), was a landmark United States Supreme Court decision which resulted in a unanimous 8-0 ruling against President Richard Nixon, ordering him to deliver presidential tape recordings and other subpoenaed materials to the District Court. Issued on July 24, 1974, the ruling was important to the late stages of the Watergate scandal, when there was an ongoing impeachment process against Richard Nixon. United States v. Nixon is considered a crucial precedent limiting the power of any U.S. president to claim executive privilege. Chief Justice Warren E. Burger wrote the opinion for a unanimous court, joined by Justices William O. Douglas, William J. Brennan, Potter Stewart, Byron White, Thurgood Marshall, Harry Blackmun and Lewis F. Powell. Burger, Blackmun and Powell were appointed to the Court by Nixon during his first term. Associate Justice William Rehnquist recused himself as he had previously served in the Nixon administration as Assistant Attorney General. Less than three weeks after oral arguments, the Court issued its decision. Within the court, there was never much doubt about the general outcome, as on July 9, the day following oral arguments, all eight justices indicated to each other that they would rule against the president. However, the justices struggled to write an opinion that all eight could agree to, the major issue being how much of a constitutional standard for what executive privilege did mean, could be established. Burger's first draft was deemed problematic and insufficient, and multiple drafts ensued, with Associate Justice Potter Stewart becoming a de facto co-author of the final decision. The stakes were so high, in that the tapes most likely contained evidence of criminal wrongdoing by the President and his men, that they wanted no dissent. All contributed in some way to the opinion and a final version was agreed to on July 23, the day before the decision was announced. Chief Justice Burger delivered the decision from the bench and the very fact that he was doing so meant that knowledgeable onlookers realized the decision must be unanimous. After ruling that the Court could indeed resolve the matter and that Jaworski had proven a "sufficient likelihood that each of the tapes contains conversations relevant to the offenses charged in the indictment," the Court went to the main issue of executive privilege. The Court rejected Nixon's claim to an "absolute, unqualified Presidential privilege of immunity from judicial process under all circumstances." It held that a claim of Presidential privilege as to materials subpoenaed for use in a criminal trial cannot override the needs of the judicial process, if that claim is based, not on the ground that military or diplomatic secrets are implicated, but merely on the ground of a generalized interest in confidentiality. Nixon was ordered to deliver the subpoenaed materials to the District Court. Nixon resigned sixteen days later, on August 9, 1974. First? Edition. First? Printing. good.